This month’s meeting of the Borough’s Anadromous Streams Task Force started off with a discussion about semantics. At issue was the role of the mayor’s Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander, who is serving on the Task Force as group’s facilitator. Some members of the task force wanted more clarification about the nature of facilitating these meetings.
Talk of removing Ostrander began at the group’s meeting in November.
“Mr. Ostrander brought up the fact he would be introducing amendments to be considered by this body. Is that really the job of the facilitator to be doing that?” Nikiski resident Wayne Ogle asked the panel during a public comment period.
Ogle said he also had concerns about Ostrander’s remarks at the October meeting of the task force, where he addressed the issues of misinformation about the anadromous streams ordinance and questioned the motivation for totally scrapping the ordinance, which has been on the books since 1996, and starting over, which is the main point of contention.
Many residents, including some task force members, have called for a full repeal of the ordinance. In October, Ostrander addressed that possibility.
“I think conceptually if you did that (drafted a new ordinance from the beginning) I think the way you’d want to do that is form a working group and we would have monthly meetings and we would discuss how to make this a great ordinance. And then after we met for five or six months, we’d take this out and have town hall meetings. And then we’d probably go and meet again and then put together these amendments and then go to the Assembly. And the reason I say this is because this is because we’re describing exactly what this task force can do,” Ostrander said.
“I don’t understand why we’d throw away everything that we’ve done and then repeal this and restart the exact same process that we’re in right now,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting at the Donald E. Gilman River Center, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre explained what he had in mind when putting the group together this summer and specifically, the responsibilities of the facilitator, who would be the “point person” for the administration.
“With all due respect to the Task Force and the resolution you have before you tonight, it is not the prerogative of the Task Force to define the roles of Task Force members,” Navarre said.
“Mr. Ostrander does speak for the administration,” he added, saying his administration should have a voice in the deliberations of the group and the facilitator serves that function.
The resolution, introduced by task force member Fred Braun, would have clarified the position of the facilitator and invited the possibility of hiring an independent facilitator to replace Ostrander, but it didn’t get much support and in fact didn’t make it on to the agenda after other members indicated their intentions to vote against it.
“I think the Mayor has been very clear here in saying this is his administrative task force. I think we need to get to the work of this task force and stop wasting time on these peripheral issues. I want to know what we can do to make the ordinance better, but I don’t want to get on these attacks on process. The mayor’s been clear on it, so I’m going to vote no,” said task force member Ken Tarbox.
Monday’s meeting was the fifth for the group, who is charged with delivering to the borough Assembly amendments to improve the borough’s anadromous streams ordinance and address concerns about its implementation by property owners by early next year. The task force meets next on January 17th.